Resembling the previous government’s move to grant interest-free car loans and laptops to journalists, Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera‘s has also allocated Rs. 5 million for journalists loans under the ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ programme fueling suspicion whether the government is attempting to bribe the local media.
The state-sponsored credit programme, initiated by Samaraweera last year, was aimed at entrepreneurs and small and media enterprises.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, addressing a workshop on the development programme for ruling party MPs, praised Samaraweera’s efforts to grant loans to journalists.
The Prime Minister pointed out the contrast between the previous government which abducted and killed journalists and the current government which lavishly dishes out loans to them.
Wickremesinghe also blamed the media for “underreporting” the government’s development work. “They (Media) want an era of killings and disappearances. When I say this, they will attack me again,” the Prime Minister added.
However, the move indicated that the government was trying to win over the support of the media by enrolling journalists to the loan scheme.
In a similar move, the previous government gifted laptops and gave car loans to journalists from virtually every mainstream media in the country with the exception of the Sunday Times newspaper.
An investigation by Colombo Telegraph revealed that 136 mainstream journalists, including editors, and 30 provincial correspondents were awarded laptops by the previous. 11 of those provincial correspondents were from former Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella’s electorate of Kandy while nine chosen correspondents were from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Hambantota. The other 237 recipients were believed to be Ministerial aides and supporters who cannot be identified as journalists.
Colombo Telegraph also revealed that the Rajapaksa regime had granted 547 journalists and media workers a Rs. 1,200,000/- of interest free government loans from a state bank to purchase car or van. The interest was paid by the Treasury using tax payers’ money.